Nagaland Polls: Political parties woo voters with glossy manifestos

Morung Express News
Dimapur | February 24

Political parties have released their manifestos ahead of the February 27 general elections to the 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly, outlining policies for future socio-economic development, security other issues over the next five years.

As per an analysis of the manifestos released by eight of the political parties, welfare, economic and social development, and infrastructure have received a lot of attention and the documents outlined plans for job creation, developing youth and women resources, leveraging technology for development and implementing policies to transform rural economy and quality of life, among others.

Notably, Naga political issue, a mainstay on manifestos for all parties before, failed to make it into the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) ‘vision document.’ The other parties— Indian National Congress (INC), Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas), Naga People’s Front (NPF), Nationalist Congress party (NCP), Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), National People’s Party (NPP), and the Rising People’s Party (RPP)— vouched for a logical solution to the protracted issue and its implementation.

The NPP was the only party that avowed to seek total repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from Nagaland and the North East region.

The Morung Express presents a thematic overview of manifestos eight political available in public domain so far. 

Youth Empowerment
The manifestos reflected the parties' varying priorities and approaches to addressing youth-related issues. For the NPP, it was through the establishment of skill development centres in all district headquarters for youths. The party also pledged to provide ample employment opportunities for the educated unemployed youths in the government and private sectors through various schemes.

Skill development was the focal point for the other parties too, with the BJP promising to establish a skill development university. It also promised to provide 2 lakh self-employment opportunities in the next five years through various means, including setting up MSMEs, agro processing, software technology parks, and establishing digital India start-up hubs in all districts. The party also promised to establish a state testing agency to conduct recruitment drives for government jobs, free coaching for government job aspirants, and a student credit scheme, among others.

Similarly, the NCP focused on creating education infrastructure and formulating a policy for HR management to identify and create job-oriented education systems. The party also proposed the creation of call centres, markets, and growth facilitation of the service sector in Nagaland.

The INC proposed converting sports into earning opportunities with the target of sending athletes to the 2032 Olympics, and introducing compulsory skill training after HSLC. It also proposed rehabilitation for juvenile delinquents and recognised the need for job creation. It further pledged to raise the age limit to 40 years for recruitment to government services. 

The NPF manifesto proposed the development of adequate sporting infrastructure in every district and the introduction of schemes to encourage, support, and recognize youth innovation, invention, and positive contributions in multiple areas. The party also proposed setting up youth rehab programmes in all districts.

The NDPP manifesto focused on human resource development, capacity building, and innovative employment policies. The party proposed the establishment of merit-based youth employment schemes, a Centre of Excellence for Music and Arts, and an Institute of Traditional & Folk Music. The party also proposed the establishment of BPOs and call centres in Nagaland.

The RPP manifesto meanwhile, proposed the establishment of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to promote skill development, sports, arts, music, and youth resource/employment. While the details of the SPV and how it would function were not provided, the proposal suggested a focused and targeted approach to youth empowerment.

When it comes to infrastructure development, the manifestos put a lot of emphasis on road connectivity across all districts of the state, and strengthening of air and rail connectivity. While most parties vouched for setting up an International airport at Dimapur, the BJP stated that it would connect Kohima to the rail network by 2024.

Other issues mentioned in the manifestos included ensuring uninterrupted power supply, improving water supply and sanitation programmes. Urban development programmes including development of sewerage systems, construction of flyovers, and conservation of rain water, etc were mentioned in the INC manifesto, while the NPP sought to upgrade Dimapur into as ‘smart city,’ among others.

With regard to rural infrastructure, the NDPP manifesto stated that PMGSY would continue to be effectively and strictly monitored so that the villages in Nagaland are connected through quality roads. Similarly, considering the agrarian structure of rural society, most parties put emphasis on developing roads and installing modern farming and irrigation technologies.

Parties like the INC, NPF also mooted revitalisation of existing infrastructure such as the Ganeshnagar Industrial Estate, Wazeho Cement Factory, to name a few.

Naga identity & cultural heritage 
Overall, the manifestos promised to preserve and promote the state’s cultural heritage in their manifestos. The NDPP stated that the Register for Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) has already been submitted and efforts are being made to implement the same at the earliest, while the BJP pledged over Rs 1600 crore towards the promotion of Naga culture and the protection and conservation of languages and festivals. The NCP promised to strengthen cultural institutions, while the NPF aimed to strengthen Naga Customary laws and practices through legislative measures. The party has also promised to revisit land-use laws and regulations to strike a balance between the need for land resource for socio-economic development and preventing land alienation from indigenous landowners.

The INC will focus on creating tourism destinations to promote tangible and intangible culture, and the NPP has pledged to set up a special committee to preserve traditional cultural heritage. The RPP meanwhile, vowed to protect the Indigenous People’s right over citizenship in Nagaland and protection of Article 371 (A) until a mutually agreed political settlement is reached.

Women welfare
In terms of women welfare, the NDPP manifesto stated that it supports reservations for women and taking all stakeholders into confidence, it would carry out the implementation of women’s reservations. The INC and NPP were specific about implementing 33 percent reservation for women in urban local bodies while LJP (Ram Vilas) said it would provide ‘due share.’ The NPF meanwhile stated it would uphold the irrevocable principle of absolute equality and rights, while also stating that it would examine and take steps towards women’s rights to inheritance to acquired property and their gradual participation in Naga decision making and customary law enforcement bodies.

Congress also promised ITI and working women hostels. 

The BJP announced a slew of women welfare schemes including Rs 200 crore for ‘Mother & Child Department’ in all district hospitals, establishment of a Women Warrior Battalion, the state’s first all-women police battalion.

Besides, it promised free education for females from kindergarten to post-graduate while meritorious female college students can expect free scooty.

Eastern Nagaland 
Specific promises for the development of Eastern Nagaland were also made in the manifestos this time around. Though it did not specify the location, the NDPP echoed the INC’s proposal to set up a mini-secretariat in Tuensang. The INC also suggested relocation of DUDA to Tuensang and the creation of a separate Directorate of School Education.

The NDPP stated that development departments will have a special Eastern Nagaland Cell and various measures would be taken up for skill development, expansion of banking and financial services, and upgrade of International Trade Centres—a move that was also proposed by the NPP.

The BJP too outlined its priorities in the region, promising the establishment of an Eastern Nagaland Development Board and a ‘special package’ for the region. The manifesto also included promises to fast-track completion of various projects in the region.

Health and Education
For the health sector, the LJP (Ram Vilas) promised a new public health policy on the grounds that government run health services were neglected, while the INC proposed a healthcare scheme for all.

The BJP said it would introduce the Nagaland State Cancer Prevention and Treatment Policy and also announced investment of over Rs 1050 crore towards setting up various diagnostic and other facilities as well as establishment of training institutions and other medical infrastructure in the state.

Similarly, the NPP, NDPP, and NPF proposed the upgrade and modernisation of existing healthcare facilities while emphasising on affordability.

In the education sector, while pointing out that the state’s public education system is in need of streamlining, several political parties promised to upgrade and set up new educational infrastructure in the state including higher education institutions like IITs and IIMs. The NDPP and the BJP mooted setting up a new state university along with an action plan to boost the Nagaland University. Plans to provide 0% interest free loans for students, medical and nurses college in one year were highlighted by the INC while the NPP proposed revamping of school curriculum in the state.

INC also proposed free quality and competitive education from lower kindergarten to Class XII. 

The NPF manifesto stated that it would constitute a time-bound Education Reforms Commission to raise the quality of education in the state and meet the requirements of the international job market.